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3 MIN

The Irresistible Charm of Pittsburgh's Many Bridges

Three rivers equals 446 bridges, and that equals more Instagrammably lovely vistas than you can count

Finding your way around Pittsburgh, even on foot with GPS phone in hand, can sometimes be a challenge. Situated at the confluence of three rivers, the Ohio, the Allegheny and the Monongahela, the city is made up of an odd mix of north and south shores, hills and bridges, curiously angling streets and a triangular downtown that ends, appropriately, at the Point State Park.

Add in an urban redevelopment that is both rapid and encompassing and you have the reason one resident characterized a typical set of local directions as follows: “You cross that bridge and then turn right where that place used to be.”

You cross bridges with great frequency in Pittsburgh. In fact, if your trip is planned for more than a few city blocks, it’s difficult to go almost anywhere without crossing at least one, principally because Pittsburgh has a whole lot of them. Specifically 446 bridges, according to a 2006 survey, more than any other city in the world.

"Even those not at all bridge-curious will find it hard not to be impressed by their ubiquity and nobility"

It only follows that the city is to a certain degree defined by its bridges, and further, that the visitor would be wise to pay attention to them. Fortuitous, then, that so many are both atmospheric and pedestrian-friendly.

The most notable of the city’s many bridges are those that cross the Allegheny River to the city’s North Side and the Monongahela River to the South Side. And the best view of these spans may be had from any of a number of the downtown-facing restaurants atop Mount Washington, on the south shore at the point where the three rivers meet. Known for vistas regularly ranked among the best in the United States, the mostly fine dining establishments that line the mountain crest side of the aptly named Grandview Avenue all provide exceptional views. None, however, can compare to that afforded diners at the Monterey Bay Fish Grotto, situated several floors up on the opposite side of the street and offering both jaw-dropping sightlines and exceptional seafood. If reserving far enough in advance, visitors are advised to request table number one for ne plus ultra views.

Courtesy Visit Pittsburgh

The 16th Street Bridge

Back down on the ground, the bridges most likely to be traversed by visitors are those that venture north from 6th, 7th and 9th Streets, known respectively as the Roberto Clemente Bridge, the Andy Warhol Bridge and the Rachel Carson Bridge. The second leads almost directly to the Andy Warhol Museum and the last is named for a noted Pittsburgh-born marine biologist and conservationist. The three make up the only trio of identical bridges in the United States and rank among the first self-anchoring suspension bridges ever built.

Structural relevance aside, each bridge presents a captivating, if subtly differing, panorama of Pittsburgh on both sides of the river, not to mention appealing views of the other bridges in the set. The best-case crossing scenario is to traverse the Clemente Bridge, named after one of Pittsburgh’s most revered baseball players, on a Pirates game day, when it is closed to vehicular traffic and becomes a festive route for baseball fans heading to PNC Park.

Courtesy Visit Pittsburgh

The Roberto Clemente Bridge

On the south shore of downtown is the Smithfield Street Bridge, an eye-catching steel bridge – the second oldest such structure in the United States – with arcing and intersecting metalwork that has led to it being designated a National Historic Landmark. Particularly beautiful when illuminated at night, it provides an atmospheric route to the Station Square district of shops, bars and restaurants, or to the shoreline Three Rivers Heritage Trail, which in turn leads to the bases of Pittsburgh’s two historic funiculars, the Duquesne and Monongahela Inclines, each affording its passengers yet more outstanding urban views.

Courtesy Visit Pittsburgh

The Smithfield Street Bridge

With those four bridges explored, there still remain a mere 442, of course, enough for a book or perhaps several volumes of studies, but a few too many to be properly enumerated here. Given sufficient time and resiliency, intrepid explorers will discover historic covered bridges, majestic stone bridges, welcoming pedestrian-only bridges and hundreds of others of virtually every design and structural support known to the world of engineering, while even those not at all bridge-curious will find it hard not to be impressed by their ubiquity and nobility.

Indeed, while Pittsburgh is certainly not unique in its "city of bridges" identity – Venice and Amsterdam are two others that spring to mind – it is certainly nonetheless a place where bridges play instrumental roles in the form, function and feel of the urban structure. Which makes these structures not just routes to the many landmarks the city has to offer, but also tourist attractions in and of themselves.

Courtesy Visit Pittsburgh

The Fort Duquesne Bridge

Published Wednesday, July 27th 2016

Header image credit: Courtesy Visit Pittsburgh

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